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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jesus the Corn King: Examining some Parallels Between Jesus and Dionysus


Jesus the Corn King: Examining some Parallels Between Jesus and Dionysus

According to the biblical scholar and historian Dennis MacDonald there are extensive connections between the Gospel stories found in the New Testament and the Greek myths and legends of old. In fact, MacDonald has gone further than anyone by showing that these links are more than just mere parallels but has shown, in many instances, these links to be exact copies of Greek phrases lifted right out of the Iliad and Odyssey.[1]
If these borrowings are undeniable, as MacDonald contends they are, then what about other parallels and similarities to the ancient Greek stories and the New Testament? Shouldn't these exist as well? I contend that they do, and more specifically, I contend that the Jesus narrative closely follows, if not borrows from, the myth of Dionysus.
Modern scholars such as Friedrich Holderlin, Martin Hengel, Barry Powell, Robert M. Price, and Peter Wick, among others, have argued that there are distinct parallels between the ancient Dionysian religion and early Christianity. Perhaps more striking than this, however, are the parallels between Jesus himself and the pagan god Dionysus, especially when it come to ritual, wine, and symbolism.[2]
In fact, there seems to have been a direct rivalry between early early Christianity and the popular Dionysian religion. Scholar E. Kessler has detailed that the Dionysian cult had developed into a monotheism by the 4th century CE giving direct competition to early Christianity.[3] It does not take a leap of faith to imagine this rivalry existed prior to the Dionysian cult’s transformation as well.
Meanwhile, Peter Wick has shown how Jesus turning water into wine at the Marriage of Cana (John 2:1-11; and John 2:3-5) was intended to show that Jesus was superior to his pagan counterpart Dionysus. Wick notes that the numerous references to wine, miracle and wine, and ritual and wine cannot possibly represent a Christian vs. Jewish controversy, as there is no discernible wine symbolism in Judaism, but that the entire book of John is laden with such wine symbolism as it is meant as a Christian attempt to depict Jesus as superior to Dionysus.[4]
Studies in comparative myth have shown how Jesus shares the dying and rising god mytheme.[5]
Even the beloved Christian apologist C.S. Lewis acknowledged the Dionysian elements in the Jesus narrative often referring to Jesus as the dying and rising “Corn King” which parallels the symbolic celebration of the harvest, which Dionysus is traditionally representative of.[6] Lewis obviously took his language from Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, in which Frazer refers to the archetypal ‘sacrificial-scapegoat’, such as the dying and rising gods Osiris, Lityerses, Adonis, and Bacchae as the “Corn King.”
The dying and rising Dionysus was more than just symbolic of the seasons, however, as in Euripides play The Bacchae (405 BC) it is said that through Dionysus’ death and the spilling of his blood, like wine, freed his followers from sin.[7]
Other similarities exist too. After his discussion with King Pentheus, facing the charges of claiming divinity, Dionysus is refers to himself as a lion walking into a net (The Bacchae, line 1036). These uncanny parallels can be seen in Jesus of the Gospels as contained in the discussion with Pontius Pilate, for the same charges against him,[8] [9] and Jesus too is likened to the Lion of Judah in Revelation 5:5. Although it could be claimed this is a rather loose parallel, it is interesting to note that both figures were likened to lions as well as having wine symbolism, are both dying and rising corn-gods, and offer salvation from sin.
In fact, the Pontius Pilate and King Pentheus discourses the parallels are so ripe and numerous that the only way to really take them all in is to read both accounts side by side. It almost seems as if those anonymous Greek writers of the Gospels were so enamored with the discourse between Dionysus and Pentheus that they retold it using their favorite character Jesus Christ, another dying and rising Corn King, with ties to wine rituals (Mat. 9:11, Luke 5:30, John 2:5-11, John 6:55-56).
Other notable similarities are in Dionysus frequent drunkenness and the accusations of Christ drinking more than he should, so much so it is said he was unable to sit up straight while drinking with known drunkards and that he was a glutton and a drunkard (Mat. 11:19), an accusation he never denied.
At the marriage in Cana (John 2:1-11), Jesus turns the water into wine, and takes on the ceremonial role of Dionysus who fills the empty wine flasks of his followers. It is worth noting that, along with the guests, Jesus and his disciples had drunk all of the wine (whether or not they get drunk isn’t mentioned, but one can assume it a likely possibility given what follows). This prompted the call for more wine, and instead of performing the Dionysian miracle of simply refilling everyone’s flask just once, Jesus goes above and beyond and changes 180 gallons of water into wine.
Needless to say 180 gallons of wine is far more than required for such a small wedding. Was Jesus trying to get everyone drunk? Or did he think his subsequent parable would go down better with a 180 gallons of wine? Whatever the case may be, there was no doubt that Jesus loved his wine.
Now these parallels do not mean that various aspects of the Jesus narrative was based in any way on the Dionysian myth, but the parallels are so numerous that it would be unwise to dismiss such a possibility.
In fact, the Pontius Pilate and Jesus dialog mirrors the King Pentheus and Dionysus dialog in such profound and undeniable ways that I am more than inclined to think it was the template for that particular discussion found in the New Testament. Both Jesus and Dionysus are interrogated by the authoritarian figure of the land, they both get asked similar questions about their intentions, both give similar answers, the most notable being that they both claim to ‘bare witness to the truth’, and they both are accused of sedition and ultimately killed in what represents a symbolic sacrifice to cleanse their followers sins.
Additionally, both Pontius Pilate and King Pentheus meet similar ends, dying atop mountains. According to legend, Pontius Pilate is filled with sorrow and remorse after Jesus’ death, and commits suicide during the first year of Caligula's reign, while another legend places his death at Mount Pilatus, in Switzerland. King Penthius, whose name literally means ‘man of sorrow’ (from the greek word péntho [πένθος] which means sorrow), is driven mad and runs into the woods  of Mount Cithaeron, and is killed when he runs into the Bacchanalia (in this case the all female Maenads), the followers of Dionysus.
Besides the above dialog other similarities exist between Jesus and Dionysus as well. In Euripides The Bacchae, Dionysus refers to himself as the Child of God and Jesus is frequently referred to as the Son of God, and both are atoning for the sins of their people. Both are raised by foster parents with royal ties (King Athamas and his wife Ino in the case of Dionysus and Joseph and Mary of the royal bloodline of King David in the case of Jesus) and in both cases the foster parents are instructed by angelic figures (the winged Hermes in the case of Dionysus and the winged Gabriel in the case of Jesus) to raise the child in a specific way or manner. Both infants are birthed in secrecy while fleeing from the powers that would seek to have their blood spilled and their lives snuffed out (the ever jealous queen of the gods Hera in the case of Dionysus and King Herod the Great in the case of Jesus). Both Jesus and Dionysus get sentenced to death and both overcome death. After being reborn it is said each will be ‘exalted on high’.
Given these similarities, I have to ask myself were the Gospel writers, who were educated Greeks and trained in the ancient myths and stories of their culture, wouldn’t have put such references into the Gospel narrative of Jesus deliberately? If it is all a big coincidence, what a coincidence indeed! A whole string of them! All seeming to form a distinct pattern connecting Jesus to Dionysus!
As noted earlier, there is no prevalent wine-symbolism in Jewish culture, but suddenly it is ripe within Hellenistic Christianity and the Jesus narrative. Why should it be so prevalent here in association to Jesus if not to pay homage to the Dionysian myths by retelling them using the new Corn King? It makes sense that those living in the first, second, and third centuries would have been familiar with the Dionysian myth and Euripides The Bacchae, and would have instantly seen the parallels. I can only imagine that in the Hellenistic minds of the time, Greeks seeing Jesus as the new and improved Dionysus would be more inclined to accept Christianity. Why shouldn’t they?
It is only modern Christians, most of whom haven’t read Euripides and remain largely unaware of these parallels, who would find the suggestion that the Gospel writers were deliberately trying to make Jesus into a revamped Dionysus a troublesome consideration. But to those early Greeks, in a time when Christianity was rapidly expanding, such deliberate parallels would have made excellent pieces of early Christian propaganda for gaining pagan converts and allowing Jesus Christ to usurp the pagan gods of the old religion and replace them, thus gaining status as the definitive Corn King.




[1] See Dennis MacDonalds two books on this topic: The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark and Does the New Testament Imitate Homer? by Yale University Press.

[2] See: PausaniasDescription of Greece 6. 26. 1 – 2, and cf. AthenaeusDeipnosophistae 2. 34a.

[3] E. Kessler, “Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire,” Exeter, pp. 17-20, July 2006.

[4] Peter Wick, “Jesus gegen Dionysos? Ein Beitrag zur Kontextualisierung des Johannesevangeliums,”  Biblica (Rome:Pontifical Biblical Institute) Vol. 85 (2004) 179-198.

[5] See: Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, 1985, pp. 64, 132. Also see: The Christ Myth (Westminster College Oxford Classics in the Study of Religion) by Arthur Drews, 1998, p. 170. Also see: Deconstructing Jesus by Robert M. Price, 2000, pp. 86-93, and all of chatper 7. Also see James Frazer’s The Golden Bough.

[6] C.S. Lewis, The Complete Signature Classics, 2002, HarperCollins, p. 402.

[7] See the Gilbert Murray translation of The Bacchae, lines 800-1199. Available online: http://www.bartleby.com/8/8/3.html

[8] Barry B. Powell. Classical Myth Second ed. With new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998.

[9]  Martin Hegnel, Studies in Early Christology, 2005, p.331.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Although it is slightly dated, it's still one of the funnest, most informative, and best interviews I've ever seen. It's definitely worth your time to view the full thing.







God & Naturalism: Take Us To The Threshold!


Analytical reasoning is not easy. I'll be the first to admit it. It took me four years of studying philosophy before I became comfortable with it. It took another year to feel like I knew how to even apply it to the questions I had. I've always been a systematic thinker, and I aced all my philosophy and theory classes back in uni, if you consider such things an accomplishment. I've taught rhetoric and argumentation at the college level before, so I do know that people struggle with it. Organizing our thoughts is never easy, let alone making them clear to others.

So even though I got better at analytical reasoning, having read Kurt Godel, Burtrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein and having taken courses on modal logic and being a student of Kant's reasoning, it has only been incrementally, not to mention painstakingly, baby steps that I have gradually become able to see the analogs that are lying under the surface of any given philosophical problem.

But in philosophy the big questions do not usually have easy answers. Analogs helps us make sense of the philosophical problem, but they aren't the end all to the philosophical debate.

Like those Magic Eye autostereogram images that you have to step back from and squint peculiarly at before the hidden image becomes clear. Sometimes taking a step back gives us a much needed perspective.

It seems there was some confusion regarding my earlier statements regarding atheist vs. theist assumption in relationship to nature, and I wand to expound on this topic a bit.

Earlier I said that both the atheist and the theist make a priori assumption to get their respective theology off the ground. This, I mentioned, was true of any belief.

As such, I explained that the respective premises are as follows:

Theism: God x 1 = 1 God.

Atheism: God x 0 = 0 God.

This is the a priori assumption either position must make to form either belief there is a God or belief that there is no God.

Additionally, I claimed that the atheist's assumptions are finished since their assumption apparently matches with the physical reality we observe.

The reason is obviously because atheists haven't added anything to the equation. In philosophical language we say the atheist has not made a positive claim while the theist has.

The theist has added--or posited--something to the equation. They have posited +1 God to the physical reality we observe.

***

Atheists and theists are both in agreement that God should, in principle, be provable. A theist who says we can't prove the existence of God has backed themselves into an impossible corner of an impossible hole they cannot climb out of. As such, no reasonable person would negate their own belief by making it impossible to prove. As such, theists and atheists alike look toward the natural world for signs of what might constitute evidence for God.

Some people think it is up to the atheist to disprove the negative claim. But I maintain this doesn't make sense because the atheist claim seems to match with observation.

That doesn't mean the atheist couldn't still be wrong, but if they are, God's features are hidden from us otherwise there would be no dispute over the issue. In order to claim atheists simply haven't understood the obvious evidence staring them in the face is to talk down to the intelligence of people who are the majority in fields such as philosophy and science. If God was obvious, we'd know it before most theists would (but that would technically make us theists, but you get my point).

However, I don't think the theist assumption pans out. At least, it doesn't appear to be the case.

Traditionally, theists haven't felt secure in the claim +1 God exists either.

In fact, they have posited things such as God existing outside of reality, beyond space time, as an eternal being, who is all powerful and all knowing necessarily, otherwise there would be no interaction between this being's open-existence with our closed-off existence.

Somewhere on the Venn diagram God's reality must intersect with our reality or there is absolutely no way to detect God and the theist claim is rendered futile.

It is because we live in a physical world where these things are easy to measure, observe, and test that any disturbance of them would be equally noticeable. That is, anything crossing that threshold would be immediately detectable as a disturbance or anomaly.

As such, this is the playing field where we would look for interactions with a supernatural entity like God.

So when theists posit +1 God, we look toward nature to see if any residual ripples are immediately detectable from the overlap which would need to exist between our reality and God's to confirm the existence of such an entity.

But when we look down at the pond, all we see is clear, still waters.

***

The atheist isn't required to make any additional assumptions about the nature of reality. Some may, but it's not required. Our belief with respect to the non-existence of God appears tentatively justified by the features of the natural physical world we observe.

Theists on the other hand, well, all their work is all still ahead of them if they want us to assume along with them that there is more to nature than what is observed. And in order to take the next step in forming a comprehensible belief that takes +1 God beyond a mere a priori assumption, more assumptions will have to be made--at least until definitive evidence is forthcoming.

The assumption that God exists, for example, is not enough to actually establish +1 God exists. You see, if God existed within the same physical reality as cats, airplanes, donuts, and porn stars there would be no dispute as to God's existence. Scientists would have surely detected him by now. But they haven't. Therefore theists have to assume God exists outside of physical reality in order to safeguard God from being imminently falsified when everybody suddenly realizes that the claim +1 God does not match observation.

Now one may say we shouldn't always demand empirical evidence for God. But this argument doesn't hold water because it ignores the fact that the reality we do live in does act in accordance to certain detectable physical laws. It is precisely because we exist within such a system that we have no reason to expect that the system wouldn't detect an anomaly such as God or the supernatural; either directly or indirectly.

All we can do is say, take us to the threshold. That intersecting segment on the Venn diagram where the interaction will be.

So the real question becomes, in a world where a basic set of physical laws explain the features of reality we observe, why wouldn't we be able to pin-down a God?

***

God may be complex, but the system we are seeking to describe in relationship to this God is rather simple. To suggest we couldn't detect something like a God's interaction with that system goes back to making God unfalsifiable, thus impossible to prove. In which case, the claim +1 God exists becomes incoherent.

Now, I am certain some smart-ass theist will come along and point out that atheists cannot prove that God does not exist, but then they have misunderstood how demonstration works.

You don't prove things exist by proving what doesn't exist.

If you say something doesn't exists but someone can conjure it up for you to test, then you'd have no further reason to claim it didn't exist.

The very reason atheists can claim God doesn't likely exist is because the burden of proof simply hasn't been met to establish, beyond a reason of a doubt, that +1 God is a valid claim.

It's true that both theologies appear tentative, but it seems to me one has a higher probability of being correct. Mainly the one which makes less assumptions and doesn't complicate the equation. The more assumptions you make the more arguments you will require to justify each additional assumption, ad naseaum--or at least as many times as will be required to get everyone to the same understanding of God.

That's the challenge. It's a rather big challenge. And it's probably why after two-thousand years of theists professing the existence of God we are still having the same ole conversation.

If only professing were enough though, because I'll tell you something--I have lots of things I'd like to profess. Like how much Angelina Jolie loves me, the fact that I'm a multi-billionaire, and how I will likely live to eight hundred years old. Well, like I said, professing is one thing--proving it all is entirely another thing.







Thursday, April 10, 2014

Antinomy of the Atheist: An Open Letter to Anyone and Everyone


Here's the thing.

Atheism for the sake of atheism is rather absurd.

In fact, there is no good reason to repeatedly bring up that which one does not believe in.
Do you believe in flaggermaroos and kaliwag snicker-poodles? If not, does it bother you that you haven't immediately informed me and everyone else on the planet of it?

Probably not. 

Then why do atheists, especially these so-called "New Atheists," seem to revel in reminding everybody that they don't believe in God?!

Well, needless to say there are historical reasons for why atheists feel hard pressed to explain themselves. Mainly because the religious won't stop pigeonholing us into uncomfortable definitions of what it means to be an atheist.

How do I know this? Because everybody and their dog has an opinion on atheists!

As if they knew better than I do about what I don't believe! Ha!

It's god-awful presumptuous, if you think about it.

It is a lot like me, a Caucasian male trying to define what it means to be an African American female. Really, how would I know what it's like to be one when I'm not? But this is how religion has typically treated atheists over the centuries. 

Yeah. Atheism is a strange word. I'll be the first to admit it. It explains one, and only one, sort-of-belief a person has. 

In this case, it explains what they don't believe to be the case. 

God? Not so much. 

We atheists, for whatever reasons we may have, just can't bring ourselves to believe that one proposition. But that's all the term atheism or atheist denotes. Nothing more, nothing less. Atheism = 0 God(s).

Simple. To the point.

I hope you realized, that as people, atheists have so many more beliefs than the simple and unassuming belief that there is no God. It's strange that this doesn't get brought up. 

Why should religion have such a hard-on for what we atheists don't believe?

It's like the moment a religious person hears you're an atheist they want to strap on a dildo and fuck you in the ass with it to teach you a lesson. 

You see, religion has developed a bad taste for atheism.

Atheism is the antithetical position who what most believers feel to be a sacred truth. Therefore, atheists must be bad, right?

Over the centuries atheism has been vilified by the religious. After all, atheists certainly haven't been going around claiming they eat babies or worship the devil. These are specifically religious hang-ups.

Religion often brings up atheism in negative ways, and tries ever so hard to diminish the value of atheistic belief by attacking the individual, saying things like those who don't believe in God are somehow morally depraved. 

Religion is in the habit of highlight atheism and putting it in a negative light. The religious will often try to make it seem like anyone who is an atheist is also corrupted or deficient in some way.

In fact, they will go as far to suggest that if you're an atheist, something very traumatic must have happened to you when you were young--maybe your parents divorced, or you were molested by your priest. They always try to take away from the rational or intellectual reasons one may have for being an atheist by raising non-sequiturs or distracting us with wild absurdities.

This maltreatment of atheism, and atheists in general, is a historical occurrence. It's sad, but true. It's been going on for thousands of years and continues to this day.

That's the thing that bothers me the most.

It continues to this day.

Famous news anchors go on national television and call atheists pin-heads simply because they are atheists. 

I mean, what if the same famous news anchor went on and called all Jews pin-heads simply because they are Jews?

What if, for that matter, he went on and announced all women are pin-heads because they are women?

It's called oppression. Women and minorities have valiantly fought to get out from under such oppression, and now atheists are pushing back too.

Which is why I miss Christopher Hitchens so goddamn much. He always was able to land a much needed Hitch-slap to such odious, obnoxious, and deserving news anchors.

But it's this very oppressive attitude taken by the mainstream religious, and religions historically, that gives the "New Atheists" cause to correct the misconceptions of what atheism is and, in doing so, help to counter the blatant and often spiteful misrepresentations of it. 

Of us.

I doubt the religious realize the irony when they ask why us atheists can't stop talking about a God we don't believe in. 

The answer is, we wouldn't, if you religious folks would only stop cramming God down everyone's throats while actively slandering those who think differently in the process.

Learn to agree to disagree, for Christ's sake. 

Granted, not all religious people are this dense. But the level headed ones often seem to get drown out by the obnoxious noise of zealot believers trying to silence the atheist anyway they know how, whether it is burning them at the stake, hunting them and jailing them, making up absurd laws that means any atheist who professes to be an atheist will be considered a terrorist of the state and arrested and given an automatic 20 prison sentence such as in Saudi Arabia, or whether it is simply religious apologists like Randal Rauser blocking atheists like me because he didn't like the fact that I called him out on his rude behavior towards, you guessed it, other atheists.

So we still have a long ways to go before we can publicly announce that we don't believe in flaggermaroos and kaliwag snicker-poodles, but I suppose that's why I created this blog, The Advocatus Atheist.

To help bring awareness to these issues.

I probably wouldn't have had to either, but the moment I became an atheist everyone seemed to either turn their backs on me or turn on me.

This blog was my defense--not only of what I don't believe--but what I DO believe.

And that, perhaps, is the more important part.

If you don't want to believe in something, more power to you. I won't stop you, and I certainly won't expect you to not believe in all the things I don't believe in either (if that makes any sense). But to you religious folk out there who may be reading this, if you ask me why I don't believe in God, well, I'll be more than happy to tell you. In fact, I invite you to do so.

Just don't expect that you know better than I do as to what I don't believe in.

Sincerely,

The Advocatus Atheist

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Is Atheism More Rational than Theism?



Is atheism more rational than theism?

When I was a practicing Christian I would have simply said "No." 

But, then again, when I was a practicing Christian I didn't know very many atheists and I certainly wasn't familiar with their arguments. Heck, I wasn't very well versed in my own Christian theology. 

Yet now that I have considered both sides, I find the atheist arguments hold up better to scrutiny. If they didn't then I certainly wouldn't have become an atheist.

So then, why do I feel atheism is more rational than theism? Well, several reasons, I think.

It's true theists and atheists alike are both making assumptions as this is required for establishing any belief. 

Technically speaking beliefs are assumptions about very simple yes or no propositions. Do pigs fly? Yes, no, or maybe so? No. Okay, then. Most of us are in agreement on this question, and so most of our beliefs will conform to the answer: no, pigs don't fly. 

How do we know this? Well, we've never seen pigs fly, for one thing. Second of all, they don't have wings. And we've never seen a pig levitate or hover all on its own. So simple observation confirms our assumption, and therefore we know our belief is true. 

Almost every belief can reduce down to a yes or no proposition, thus when it comes to unknown propositions since we know that almost all beliefs are probabilistic (I say almost because properly basic beliefs may be exceptions to the rule) we can presume that disputed beliefs, like the question of God or whether or not the universe came from nothing, are either true or false, and therefore in a state of uncertainty must have a probability of being one or the other. 

So, taking a guess (or better still an educated guess), we use our experience with things like flying pigs to say, well, I know those aren't real because I've never seen one and they're not very plausible given what I know about reality. 

So what about this God business? Well, I've never seen God either, so logically speaking, I probably shouldn't believe in that one either. God doesn't match with observed reality, and it seems to me this is why theists like to say God exists outside of reality, but if so then this requires many more unfounded assumptions and so it all seems that much more less likely to be the case.

As for the verity of those beliefs we don't know either way, at least not with any certainty, we can only guess as to what their probability of being right or wrong is given the status of the evidence and quality of the logic.

This realization leads us to demand rather strict demonstrations of proof for low probability beliefs, otherwise, our beliefs simply aren't warranted, certainly not to the same degree as high probability beliefs are. 

Also, there may be certain things we have a lot of evidence for but we still might remain uncertain about. For example, consider questions about love. Is love merely the chemical and biological interplay going on within the brain or is love something more? 

Well, in all probability, love seems to be an emotional and physical condition which arises from the goings on in the brain. We have lots of evidence which demonstrates this, but because it seemingly goes against what we typically think love to be, based on our own experiences of it, we are hesitant to say 'yes, love is merely the chemical reactions happening in the brain' with any certainty. We feel inclined to say love is something more. But feelings aren't proofs. 

The fact of the matter is, the probability that love is merely a byproduct of goings on in the brain is rather high given what we currently know about the chemistry and biology of love, so we can say 'yes' with near certainty that this is what love really is. If we say 'no, love is something more', contrary to what the evidence suggests, then we are placing a higher burden of proof on ourselves to demonstrate our belief that love is something more and thereby lessen our chance of being correct.

The higher the burden of proof the more difficult it will be to prove beliefs that defy observation and evidence, thereby forcing us to make more arguments and assumptions  in order to defend such beliefs, ultimately leading to a greater probability of being mistaken.

So let's write it out another way.


Love is merely a chemical process happening in the brain + Lots of evidence which suggests this assumption is correct = high probability of being correct.

Love is something more than mere chemical processes + Little to no evidence = low probability of being correct. 

Could it be that the scientists and those of us who think that love is merely a chemical process happening in the brain are all wrong? 

Yes, that is a possibility. But because it looks as if we have the higher probability of being right about this assumption, being wrong has a low probability and we won't fret about it. Needless to say, it is up to those who feel differently to demonstrate their claims convincingly, otherwise we have no reason to go from a high probability assumption to a low probability assumption.

So why exactly do I believe, after having given it a lot of consideration, that atheism is more rational than theism? Well, my reasoning goes something like the following.

My claim is atheists assume less. For example: 

The theist assumes God x 1 = 1 God.

The atheist assumes God x 0 = 0 God.

Since the atheistic view aligns with real world observation, mainly that there is no convincing evidence for the existence of God, no additional assumptions or arguments are required. 

The theistic view does not match real world observations, however, thus additional assumptions and arguments are required to get the belief off the ground and then sustain it.

Hence the atheistic position is the simpler because it assumes less and, in turn, matches with real world observation.

When I say atheism is more rational it is because it assume less in the context of God-belief. Positing unjustifiable claims of certitude is less rational than reserving one's conclusions until convincing evidence is forthcoming.

So in the atheistic theory there are no Gods and this matches with observation but with the theistic theory which states that there is a God we find that this does not match with observation, at least not in the way we'd commonly expect, thus on this basis that atheists aren't assuming more than they can know, deluding themselves, or being delusional (i.e. believing in things that aren't there or aren't real), makes atheists more rational; if not also more prudent.

On the other hand, if theists are seeing something atheists are not, then it is up to them (the theist) to provide the evidence and demonstrate their claims thereby justifying their belief that God exists. 

Not to do so would also make them less rational since, technically speaking, they are the ones making the positive claim which is apparently contradicted by observation.

I'll be the first to admit, however, that atheists could be wrong. But if we atheists are wrong, then common sense dictates that it should be quite easy for theists to provide undeniable evidence for the existence of God, and atheists would happily change their minds accordingly. But this clearly hasn't happened. 

Could all atheists be deluded in the same way we claim believers are? No. Why not? Because our assumptions match with observation. So we're not deluding ourselves to the truth of the matter. 

Additionally, the theist demand for the atheist to prove there are no God(s) is asking us atheists to prove a negative which is already in agreement with observation. We do not have evidence for God, we do not observer anything that could justify the belief in God, and so it is perfectly reasonable to believe, as atheists do, that there is no God. This being the case, asking us to prove what already seems to be the case given our current understanding is an irrational demand, once again making theists less rational than atheists. (Granted, only the theists making this demand would be making irrational demands, making them only slightly more irrational than theists which don't.)

Given these considerations, I think it is fair to say that atheism is more rational than theism.

Any arguments for theism, or even to counter the atheist position, would have to automatically assume more than atheism does thereby giving rise to a greater probability that the theist is wrong. After such arguments are made, it is a matter of demonstrating them and taking them to their ultimate conclusion.

I dare say though that after thousands of years of belief in God it seems that theists are still making the same variety of arguments, usually putting a new spin on them here or there (usually to better account for discoveries in science and our better understanding of the universe), but still there is no trace of God.

After two thousand years of failed theistic arguments, not to mention a complete and utter lack of demonstration (and not for a lack of trying either), the only thing we can be sure of is the atheist position has never had to assume anything more and therefore remains the more reasonable position. 

As with the above example of love, the question becomes what convincing reasons do atheists have for going from a high probability assumption to a low probability assumption with regard to their belief?

Atheism: God is not something which exists + Lots of evidence, or rather lack thereof, which suggests this assumption is correct = high probability of being correct.

Theism: God is something which exists + Little to no evidence (matches with atheists level of evidence, or rather lack thereof) = low probability of being correct. 

The answer is there are no convincing reasons to compel us atheists to go from a high probability to a low probability belief assumption, otherwise there wouldn't be such a thing as atheists. Therefore atheism remains the more reasonable position.

Atheists do not pretend to know more than they possibly can. They have no evidence, so their belief reflects this. Theists think they have ample evidence, but they continually fail to meet the burden of proof yet continue to pretend to know with certainty the things they have no proof for, therefore the theist position is less rational.

In fact, the beauty of atheism is is that the only way to truly falsify it is to successfully demonstrate God beyond a shadow of doubt so that it would convince all and every rational minded person in the existence of said God. But this has not happened--not for the Christian God--not for any god. Therefore atheism remains the more rational position to take with respect to belief in God.



Monday, April 7, 2014

The Morals of Cannibal Mice: Excerpt from my upcoming book The Swedish Fish



Excerpt from Chapter 25: Aliens, Serial Killers, and Cenobites! Oh, My!

Look, if mice can ‘morally’ eat their babies, then perhaps a creature more highly evolved than us can rape, torture and murder human beings in accord with their interests. And if this is possible, then it could be the case with Ramirez. (Randal Rauser, The Swedish Atheist, p.120.)



Again, Randal is confused about the way evolution apparently works. If, for example, a mouse evolved a moral awareness and realized that eating its young was morally wrong, that would be in accordance with evolution, because it would represent a mouse passing along its genetic traits more successfully—namely a mouse that refrains from eating its young has a better chance of propagating its genes than one which eats its young. 


But the only way to say, as Randal does, that a mouse might evolve in such a way as to suggest eating its young could somehow be morally good could only happen if eating its young somehow advanced the well-being of the mouse in such a way that directly lends itself to a greater success of propagating its genes so there would be later generations of cannibal mice for evolution to work upon--which could not happen, you see, since all the young mice would have been eaten before their cute little fury cannibal genes could have ever been passed along.(ft.111)

[Mouse breeder Cait McKeown explains that first time mothers often will eat their entire litters if the babies are sick, if the mother is stressed or if the males are not separated from the females after the appropriate given time. But this isn’t to say the mothers always eat their young. Under the right conditions, the mother may have no reason to eat her babies. See: http://www.fancymice.info/birth.htm]

Advocatus Athesit

Advocatus Athesit